Coping with February

The month of February has only one redeeming factor. The weather is always nicer and more spring-like at the end of the month than at the beginning. February first is as likely to be ten below zero as ten above. Either one is winter time cold. The end of February, at least in these latitudes, are never 10 below and if it starts at 10 above at dawn, it’s because it’s a sunny, high barometric pressure day and the spring-strengthened sun will warm the world quickly.

February does have one other redemption. It’s the shortest month of the year.
So what’s an outdoors-person to do to whittle away the time during this basically ugly month?

Ice fishing is winding down. Despite what “experts” say, ice fishing in February is generally like bass fishing in the middle of a summer day. It’s better than not fishing, but don’t expect much success.

“First ice is good ice,” is commonly heard in the ice fishing community. Ice hole anglers can expect good action when the water first freezes hard enough to hold them up. February is never first ice. At best, it’s mid-season and no one says, mid-season ice fishing is best.

“Last ice is always good fishing,” some experts opine. Perhaps, but it also features dangerous conditions, slush covered lakes and is a fleeting period often just a few days long.
The best approach is to take February one day at a time and find little chores and activities to make each day pass as quickly as possible. Here’s some of my usual February day-passers.


Sorting, cleaning, oiling, repairing, winding and other minor chores are all too easy to put off “in-season.” I go over each rod and reel I own each February, giving particular attention to the outfits I’m more likely to use on my first open water trips of the year. I clean each reel and apply new grease to each reel’s level wind mechanism. Then, I strip off used line and spool on fresh fishing line as needed.
Opening most of my tackle boxes in February always includes surprises. First, is the self-depreciating question, “How’d I ever let the box get in this condition?” Some boxes only need a bit of cleaning and sorting. Others are like checking your pantry before heading to the grocery. I know I’ll find broken lures, misplaced lures, scratched, rusty and miscellaneous surprises.


For many people the next best thing to actually taking part in an activity is to watch others doing it on TV or in videos. There are a couple of regularly scheduled TV shows on the Outdoor Channel and similar venues I either watch or set my television recorder so I can tune in at a more convenient time. I can also forward through the annoying commercials.
Increasingly, I tune into YouTube or other on-line video options. I don’t have to endure or click through the commercials and I can pick nearly any content and detail I want. Want to learn how to tie a knot, sharpen a hook, replace the propellor on an electric motor? I bet there’s a YouTube video detailing exactly what you want to see.
These videos are also significant contributors to my next February activity.


As I mentioned above, videos are the next best thing to reality. So get real! It was a February “fisher-tainment” session that led me to a Florida fishing trip last summer. I knew I was going to be in Florida for a work-related meeting in mid-summer. I knew I could tack a couple days onto the visit to go fishing. But where?
Spare time in February gave me plenty of time to investigate the possibilities, to explore what could be caught, places to stay and make all the necessary plans far in advance. I hardly recall what happened at the meeting, but I vividly remember my morning fishing Sebastian Inlet.

February is here, it won’t be here forever. Use it wisely and it will seem to go by quickly.

Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here